Teeth Alignment Treatment for Children and Adolescents

Written by Chris Pearson GDP Registered Dentist

Issues with dental alignment aren’t just an adult experience. Many children and adolescents also have misaligned teeth. As baby teeth fall out, and adult teeth move into place, children can be left with an overbite or underbite, crooked teeth, gaps or overcrowding.

Poor teeth alignment, at its worst, can affect eating and speaking ability. Even youngsters that seem less affected might struggle with self-confidence issues. Many teens avoid smiling, worried about the way their teeth look when they’re on show.

Why is good dental alignment important?

Cosmetic benefits aren’t the only reason to seek dental alignment treatment. Of course, if that’s your only reason it’s completely valid and you deserve to be happy with your smile. Children and teenagers have enough daily stress without worrying about the way they look.

Unfortunately, teeth that aren’t straight can cause a lot of other problems for young people. They can affect speech, eating and cause ongoing jaw problems.

You might notice that your son or daughter doesn’t bite with the front of their mouth. Many kids with misaligned teeth can’t bite properly on things like pizza slices. Instead of using their front teeth to cut through their food, they’ll bite with the teeth further back. Poorly aligned teeth might also cause a slight lisp.

In cases where the jaw is affected, poor teeth alignment could cause your child’s face to look less symmetrical than most. You might also notice that they’re complaining of pain, that their jaw clicks or their lips don’t seal properly.

Is orthodontic treatment essential?

Orthodontic treatment can help kids and adolescents to avoid further dental problems. Treatment can also boost your child’s self-esteem, so they’re happier with the way they look.

Often, teeth alignment problems aren’t something a child can avoid. Many of these issues are genetic, with crowded teeth perhaps the result of a naturally smaller mouth and jaw. Many kids follow in the footsteps of their parents, so yours might have an overbite if it’s something you dealt with yourself.

Some issues are caused by habits like thumb sucking, or may have been caused by an accident even when your child only had their baby teeth. Whatever the cause, effective treatment can help to resolve any problems.

Many parents believe that their child’s dental problems will resolve on their own over time. Understandably, you might think that their teeth will find their place as your child becomes an adult. In fact, dental problems aren’t going to be fixed on their own. The jaw stops growing before adulthood, and those final molars will make any problems even worse.

What age is right for dental alignment?

You don’t get your adult molars, or wisdom teeth, until sometime between 17 and 21 years of age. Starting treatment too early can be a costly error, as the wisdom teeth erupt and shift your teeth all over again. Whilst some treatments are available to younger children and teens, many are marketed towards over 21s and many patients are happy to wait.

That’s not to say that starting treatment earlier is going to lead to disaster. In fact, with proper use of retainers, there’s no reason for teeth to shift back. Early treatment, in many cases, can actually be beneficial. But, that’s only the case if you continue with ongoing checkups and follow-up treatments

Arising dental problems can be identified in children as young as 6 or 7 years old. As soon as they start getting their permanent teeth, a good dentist can identify issues. At this stage, it’s best to monitor developments until a few more teeth are in place.

Some providers of teeth alignment treatments take patients as young as 12 years old. Starting early can avoid problems that develop through your child’s teenage years. If you can slowly correct the developing issues, you’ll avoid the worst of any problem.

If you want dental alignment for a child or adolescent, there are some precautions to take. Make sure you work with a reputable provider that understands adolescent teeth development.

What options are available for treatment?

There are several options for teeth alignment in children and adolescents. Most kids or teens will choose one of the following treatments:


Traditional braces, with wires and brackets, are the type you might have had as a child. Brackets are fixed to the teeth themselves, with the wires stretched tightly between them.

Over time, wire braces work to shift the teeth by degrees. Usually, wire braces must be removed and reapplied several times during the treatment.

In the past, most people had metal wires and brightly colored brackets. Now, more people have ceramic braces that match the tooth’s natural color. Ceramic braces can cost a bit more than traditional metal brace options.

Lingual Braces

Lingual braces are like traditional braces, but fix to the back of the tooth. Lingual braces can’t be easily seen, so they’re better for image-conscious teens.

Lingual braces are more expensive than braces on the front of the teeth. They’re also harder to clean, so good dental hygiene becomes especially important.

Clear Aligners

If you had wire braces as a child, you’ll know that they’re not all that comfortable. For children with self-confidence issues, they might also do more harm than good. Increasingly, people are choosing clear aligners instead.

Clear aligners can be removed for eating, drinking and brushing, making them ideal for children that might struggle with their dental hygiene otherwise. These aligners are almost invisible, which can help young people to feel great about smiling again.

Invisalign is the most well-known brand of clear aligners. In fact, many people use ‘Invisalign’ and ‘clear aligners’ interchangeably. But, there are many other brands and providers that offer teeth straightening treatment, with some that can be managed from your own home.

How are a child’s braces fitted?

Whether they’re going for clear aligners or traditional braces, a kid’s got to cope with an impression kit. The shape of their teeth is recorded in putty that they’ll need to hold in their mouth for a while. If you’re doing this at home, it’s very important that your child can keep still for a while. The impression putty can trigger the gag reflex and it’s not a great experience for youngsters.

Dental impressions might need to be taken just once at the start of their treatment. Or, they might be taken at several different points to see how your child’s teeth have moved.

How often should a child have dental checkups?

Young people should have dental checkups roughly every six months. Usually, that’s the same even if they’re having realignment treatment. Your child will be told if they must visit more often to get their braces readjusted or changed.

With traditional braces, appointments must be made for adjustments at regular intervals. With clear aligners, you can manage the treatment at home. It’s easy to switch from one aligner to the next, to make progress through teeth alignment treatment.

Clear aligners will usually be swapped twice a month, with each set moving the teeth a little more than the last set.

Where can younger patients get teeth alignment treatment?

If you feel that you’d like dental alignment treatment, you can speak to your regular dentist. They’re usually able to offer this treatment or connect you to someone that can. Dental alignment is usually offered by a registered orthodontist – that’s someone different to your dentist, though they may work in the same building or have direct links.

You can also arrange aligner treatment on your own from different clear aligner companies. You can visit a clinic or do everything online with a home impression kit and a camera.

Some companies will accept patients as young as 12 years old.

SmileDirectClub and byte will offer treatment to patients aged 12 and over. AlignerCo treatments start at age 14.

Being potentially eligible for aligner treatment doesn’t mean that you’re a suitable candidate. Whilst some 12 year olds will be suited to aligners, many others will need to wait a bit longer before they’re approved for this treatment. Don’t see this as a bad thing – companies have a responsibility to make sure that their treatment is safe and properly effective, so any child that’s asked to wait a bit longer will know that it’s for a good reason!

Check eligibility online before you waste your time and money on impression kits, but if you’re not suitable for clear aligner treatment then you might be offered your money back.

How much does adolescent teeth straightening cost?

Clear alignment treatment might cost around $2,000 in total. The cost of treatment will depend on the company you’ve chosen and how much work is going to be needed. Traditional braces are more expensive, with the average cost of treatment being about $6,000.

Some of the costs may be covered by your existing dental insurance. Usually you can spread the cost, making monthly payments, but with children and adolescents it’s very important that treatment continues once you’ve started. A young adult’s mouth is developing constantly, so a half-hearted job isn’t good enough.

You will also want to set your money aside for the ongoing post-treatment costs, including continued regular dental checkups and an ongoing supply of retainers. To keep teeth in their new positions, retainers should be used every night. Is your child happy to keep using their retainers, or will they let their hard work go to waste?

There may be other expenses to add to your plan. If you’re using clear aligners, you’ll need to pay for replacements if your child misplaces them or breaks them.  Of course, with children these accidental losses happen frequently.

Is teeth aligner treatment right for my child?

Parents know best the problems that their sons and daughters face. Your child might let you know if they have any jaw pain, and you should get this properly checked out. If you notice that your child’s teeth aren’t properly aligner, or you see that they’re having trouble eating, it’s time to consider dental alignment treatment for your child or adolescent.

You’ll be working with the professionals. Whether you visit an orthodontist or get clear aligners online, you’ll be told if your child’s a good candidate. No reputable provider will start your child’s treatment unless it’s the right choice for your child.

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